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Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
How do we reckon with our losses? In Animal Bodies Suzanne Roberts explores the link between death and desire and what it means to accept our own animal natures, the parts we most often hide, deny, or consider only with shame—our taboo desires and our grief. In landscapes as diverse as the Salamanca’s cobbled streets, the Mekong River’s floating markets, Fire Island’s windswept beaches, Nashville’s honky-tonks, and the Sierra Nevada’s snowy slopes, Roberts interrogates her memory and tries to make sense of her own private losses (deaths of people and relationships), as well as more public losses, including a mass shooting in her hometown, environmental devastation in the Amazon rainforest, and wildfire evacuations.
With lyricism, insight, honesty, and dark humor, these essays illuminate the sometimes terrible beauty of what it means to be human, deepening the conversation on death and grief, sexuality, and the shame that comes from surviving the world in a female body with all of its complexities.
* Memoir Magazine Prize for Best Memoir of 2022, Second Place
Praise for Animal Bodies
“Suzanne Roberts’ essays are eloquent and vibrantly imaginative. They are lyrical in the best sense: the language is rhythmic, pulsing on the page, but they are never poeticized, flowery or vague. Roberts’ wisdom and humor are evident throughout. I so welcome a collection of her essays, all in one place.
— Carolyn Forché, author of What You Have Heard Is True and In the Lateness of the World
“I have been thinking about one particular Suzanne Roberts essay, “Breaking the Codes,” since I first read it. Sometimes, I open a closet door and my stomach drops, remembering one painful scene in her essay. Sometimes I see a group of teenagers and I wonder, and worry, about all of them. Roberts’ writing rearranges me in some fundamental and necessary ways. A book like this, a book by her, is a book I desperately need.”
— Camille T Dungy, Author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers and Editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Poetry
"Animal Bodies is a marvel, a heartbreaking road map of living, loving, and grieving. Roberts bravely recalls the deaths of her alcoholic father, her dear friend, and her mother, a complex force in her life. Here, we read about rape, escape, affairs, and repair. There is wilderness and then, somehow, the clearing--both in her world travels and the dying around her. Thinking about death clarifies life, and Roberts knows the thin line between grief and joy, the importance of living fully and fighting for freedom without apology. This is hard-earned wisdom and liberation. I can't stop thinking about it."
— Lee Herrick, author of Scar and Flower and Gardening Secrets of the Dead
“No one travels the depths of place and experience more phenomenally than Suzanne Roberts. In these essays that explore being, beauty, desire, death, and our collective animal journeys on the planet, Animal Bodies gathers our questions about life and brings them to the only place where meaning might emerge: adaptation. This book is a triumph that transcends human and gives us a chance to re-story ourselves into the larger world.”
— Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Verge and The Chronology of Water
"In Animal Bodies, Suzanne Roberts offers surprising insight, both intimate and universal, into death, desire, and how we all move through this difficult world. Her essays are ruthless, beautiful, graceful, and endlessly fascinating. A wonderful book."
— Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire
“The essays in Animal Bodies unflinchingly yet so importantly meditate on loss and grief. As readers, we are fortunate to experience such stories of survival. They are poignant testimonies of passion, honesty, pain, and grace. I grieve for the young woman in each of us who, like Roberts, navigated a world of treachery, of love, and of double standards. Here, we travel with Roberts to beaches in Florida, to hospital rooms for chemotherapy, to Nashville Honky Tonks, and to the Amazon Rain Forest. We suffer with her the loss of family and dear friends. With us she carries to each of the locations her acute insight and her courageous and uncompromising desire to witness and record the world. Because these truths are the truths of so many, this is a book to be read by us all.”
— Didi Jackson, author of Moon Jar
"These essays soar like falcons and dive octopus deep; they carry the power and agility of tigers, the intelligent play of cetaceans. These essays are alive with lyricism and humor, thrumming with pain and pleasure and the complex spaces we inhabit between. Suzanne Roberts is a wonder and a force."
— Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis and Many Restless Concerns
"Roberts’ language and reflections are also startling in their honesty and perceptions. Some of her sentences stop the reader cold. Roberts’ writing and this book are gifts to the reader." —Morgan Baker, Hippocampus
“'What can you live without? Everything. Nothing.' Suzanne Roberts sums up and digs deep into the inescapable awkwardness and exquisiteness of being human in this collection of gut-wrenching, and cackle-inducing, essays. This book will live on my bedside table." — Ashleigh Renard, author of Swing
"The act of self-reflection is present in all of the book’s essays. By mining the depths of her personal grief and desires, Roberts’s collection offers wide solace. Personal and heartwrenching, the essays of Animal Bodies concern control and surrender." — Dontaná McPherson-Joseph, Foreword Book Reviews
"Suzanne Roberts’s newest book of lyrical, poignant, and daring essays, the author takes us into the trenches. Roberts writes, “We deny the most natural parts of ourselves—our hungers, our desires, our vulnerabilities and frailties, and even our grief.” This collection then opens the floodgates on what it means to be a human with deep desires, shameful moments, and grief. — Vilune Sestokaite, Terrain.org